Incidentally, Flight Plan was one of the good films I had predicted on the horizon in a recent review. I mean, how could this film miss? It stars Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Greta Scacchi, and even Erika Christensen, and it offered up the promise of an irresistible mystery high above the clouds. I was positive this one would be great.
I was wrong about this one, I chose poorly, I made a mistake this time. Flightplan is a very well acted and somewhat well directed movie, however, like the decorative swords my dad has hanging in the shape of an X in his den... it's beautiful, but it just doesn't cut it.
The screenplay by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray has a compelling idea on its shoulders, but it quickly degenerates into the misfire heard round the world, and not even the good work of Foster and director Robert Schwentke can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Maybe effective surprise endings like The Sixth Sense have spoiled thrillers for the rest of us. Maybe Jodie Foster has made so many good films, a bad one stands out like a wart on a supermodel. Maybe I've become too cynical, and expect too much out of movies... or maybe, just maybe, folks just aren't trying as hard as they used to here. Regardless, Flightplan is flatter than boiled Pepsi.
Jodie Foster plays the mourning widow of an apparent suicide victim, who, along with her daughter (Marlene Lawston) must fly back to America from Berlin to recover from the horrible thing that has scarred their lives. Foster's character still sees and feels her husband with her, even though he's deader than Enron. From that artistic opening on through the first fourth of this film, Schwentke tirelessly set us up like flesh dominoes, clumsily leading us to one conclusion that he's so sure we'll buy into with both wallets, that we can't possibly buy into it at all.
Mother and daughter board the plane (and such a gothic, fear-inspiring, flying castle you've never seen, Kemosabes) and take to preparing for a flight longer than this padded script. But when the kiddo turns up missing on this flying monstrosity (it flosses 747s out of its gums), Mom goes into high gear searching for her in her own Airport '77 meets Die Hard 2 mania. See, Mom helped design this plane, so she knows every piece of it, from nose to tail, from wing to wing and from toilet to tap. But where the eff-you-see-kay, is the daughter of the day? Through the studious research of Captain Sean Bean, and Flight Marshall Peter Sarsgaard, we find out that she never was on the plane, and no one remembers seeing her! But, hark, Mommy Foster is positive she was there!
After the first fifteen minutes, the enquiring mind has figured out the ending, or has, at least, narrowed it down to two possibilities. In that respect, this film would have probably worked really well as a half hour indie short, or possibly an episode of The Twilight Zone. But it goes on like that with false start after false start, using both carrot and stick until we're beaten and orange. Every step of the way feels calculated to distract us from the plot holes with action, heart wrenching need and doubt. It doesn't quite work, though, because the holes in this plot could probably house that enormity of a fictional plane comfortably.
It's really quite a disappointment, as missed opportunity after missed opportunity flushes down the airline commode and on to some poor farmer's head. Like Red Eye before it, Flightplan starts to mimic a movie of the week in its ham handed action and silly situations. There was so much illogic in this movie I longed for the comparitive brilliance of Under Siege II: Dark Territory. There are more missed opportunities here than on an island of beautiful nymphomaniacs holding an impotent man prisoner. This is as Hollywood as they come, and I expect a little more from Jodie Foster.
Still the acting is pretty good, and all the actors do their very best to bring this very realistic fear to life. Further, Foster plays the part of the grieving widow and frantically protective mother to the best of her strengths, and she's easily believed. It's just too bad that the story surrounding her isn't.
Talk about a wasted opportunity! And the sad thing is, audiences are eating this up like Mary Jane Brownies. Movies like this get made because people keep paying to see movies like this. It was too obvious, and took way too long to prove the critical thinkers in the crowd right. Two and One Half Stars out of Five for Flightplan! It's never truly exciting or convincing, but the good acting gets it an extra half-a-star. Just after the pat Hollywood ending that wrapped everything up in a nice little package, leaving no end, no matter how loose, tightened, no possibility for happiness ungiven, and every possible question answered, the audience actually clapped. I didn't join them because I still had one major burning question. Why didn't I go see Corpse Bride instead? See you in the next predictable reel... as long as they aren't showing this movie on my next plane ride, because if so... I'm the one who's going to turn up missing mid-flight!
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